The Path to become an Acupuncture Master, 10,000 hours and Volunteering in a Hospice Setting

The Path to become an Acupuncture Master, 10,000 hours and Volunteering in a Hospice Setting

So you want to be an acupuncture master

Let me assume that you are reading this article because a part of you wants to enter the path towards mastery of acupuncture.

Or at the very least, if you cannot be an ‘acupuncture master’, then you want to at least be the best acupuncturist you can be. I think this latter is a very noble aim and something we can all strive for.

Who’s the Jedi?

The true acupuncture master is not so easy to define. From my understanding of those acupuncturists that have been attributed with the label ‘Master’, there are a few common factors between them.


One of these is age. Most of the acupuncturists I encountered in Japan who were called Master ‘ were all in their senior years – 70s to 90s. This makes sense as we assume that a lifetime of acupuncture practice has made them highly skilled. With age, there is also  ‘length of service’ to consider. I’ll discuss this in a while as a person can learn acupuncture in their 60s and practice up to their 70s, but their advanced physical age does not necessarily make them an ‘Acupuncture Master’.


The second factor where someone is called a ‘Master’ is related to fame. They may have written popular books or articles and they may also teach and train other acupuncturists in a style that is unique to them. A good example is Wang Ju-Yi, Shoji Kobayashi or Junji Mizutani. An acupuncture master can also be someone who teaches a relatively common style, like Meridian therapy or TCM, but it does not automatically entail that all senior-aged  acupuncturists who teach at a university or school will necessarily be called an Acupuncture Master. For example, I would not refer to my TCM teachers Felicity Moir or Cinzia Scorzen as Masters, but I do wonder do they not fit the definition? After all, they are very experienced and knowledgeable. They have practiced decades and teach others.


Another factor seems to be personality. They will have a unique characteristic that sets them out a bit different to others. For example, they may be bullish like Kodo Fukushima, humble like Shudo Denmei or charismatic like Kiko Matsumoto. I have heard of these acupuncturists referred to as acupuncture masters by several people.

The Master of no Master

Some possible acupuncture masters are not even called Masters. This is especially true of Western practitioners. Perhaps Westerners have more of a hangup about calling their own ‘Masters’ compared to the Orientals, as it brings up negative connotations of ‘cult’ or ‘religion’. Yet, they may well fit the criteria of Master of acupuncture. Some examples could be considered as Stephen Birch, Stephen Brown, Jeffrey Dann and Edward Obaidey, although they may disagree with being referred as such.

Length of Service

However, by far, the most important aspect of mastery is ‘length of service’. This relates to the amount of time and experience they have put into their practice. They will have practiced for decades, treating thousands of patients. This along with some of the other factors mentioned above will lead to Acupuncture Mastery.

It is this last factor – length of service and practical experience that I will focus on in this article. In particularly, I will discuss one possible way to achieve a higher level of profiency in acupuncture on our path to be the best that we can become. And this article really relates to any kind of complementary therapy, not just acupuncture.

The Path to become an Acupuncture Master

It should be every acupuncturists goal to be the best acupuncturist that they can be. The journey is long, full of mistakes, painful learning experiences and sometimes involving ridicule by others. But there are joys and wonderful times when you are able to help someone’s problem. The acupuncture life is full of connections and relationships with other practitioners. It can be a journey of continuous learning and continuous refinement as well as bringing with it the pleasure of doing something you are good at and enjoy.

Lifelong journey

Occasionally, you may attend a workshop by someone who has years of experience behind them who will demonstrate to you a level of skill for you to aspire towards. I have attended several such workshops held by acupuncturists in their 70s and 80s and one of the great things is that by watching them you realise that you too have the remainder of your lifetime to strive for mastery of acupuncture.

This is because unlike other jobs, there is no pressure to retire at 60. You need only use your arms and hands. Even eyes are not necessary which is apparent if you care to read my book ‘The Tradition of Blind Acupuncturists in Japan’.

If you still have the faculties to work on Sudoku puzzles in your later years them you can still do acupuncture. In fact, you may even be starting to get good at that age and with this in mind, it is no surprise that a lot of acupuncture teachers and well known practitioners from Japan keep practicing into their 80s. It is one of the traditional arts, whereby age is seen as a good thing because it means you’ve got more experience.

But other than spending the next 20 to 40 years practicing, are their other ways to kick-start the process to become an acupuncture master or at least attain a good level of proficiency? After all, the quicker you get experienced, the quicker you get good results, which means business is good. And in these challenging economic times, we’ve got to get earning money as quickly as possible.

Well to answer this, I look at the 10,000 hour rule and whether it could apply to acupuncture.

The 10,000 hour rule to Mastery

The 10,000 hour rule is simply defined that for anyone to achieve mastery in any particular field, they need to spend approximately 10,000 hours in training and practice. The original concept came from Anders Ericson

The 10,000 hour to mastery concept evolved from a 1993 paper written by Anders Ericsson, Professor at the University of Colorado, titled ‘The Role of Delierate Practice in the Acquisition of Expert Performance. He studied the practice habits of violin students. and focused on violin payers who had started playing at age 5. He observed that at age 8, practice hours diverged between those that went on to become elite players and those that did not. In particular he observed that and at age 20, those that had become ‘elite’ players had averaged more than 10,000 hours each while the less ‘elite’ had averaged 4,000 hours of practice. On reflection, he concluded that those charactersitcs that we assume to reflect’ innate talent’ are actually the result of intense practice for a minimum of 10 years.

Mastery of acupuncture, the 10,000 hour rule and a quick shortcut to achieve it.

It stands to reason, that the more time we can put into our practice, the closer to Mastery we will become. Practice involves a combination of practice sessions with other therapists, seminars, workshops, aprenticeships, studying textbooks and of course actual clinical practice.

One of the challenges in the West it the lack of apprenticeships and jobs that can immediately get many acupuncture students into practice once they qualify. This means that most students will get their actual clinical practice in the rough and ready world of private practice, which is a hard environment, because it can take time to build a practice and even then, it is difficult to get many patients.

In Japan, I interviewed senior blind teachers who all told me that they may see hundreds of patients a month and they run multi-bed clinics. In contrast, it is very difficult for the same thing to happen in the UK. Most practitioners will tend to see one-to-one patients and won’t get anywhere near the same volume of patients. There are various cultural and economic reasons for these differences.

So how can a practitioner (and especially a newly qualified one) get enough clinical experience? There is one way and that is by spending some time volunteering their skill. Whilst you may not be able to complete your 10,000 hours through volunteering alone, you will be able to mark off some hours this way. And very little helps.


This article will discuss one way to build up clinical experience by volunteering. In it I draw on my own personal experience of volunteering in a palliative and hospice care setting. This article also relates to my other article on acupuncture in a palliative and hospice care.

Simply put, by volunteering, we are able to get hands on-clinical practice with patients with complex health needs in a professional environment with other health care professionals.

My step to greater proficiency

When I qualified, one of my greatest challenges was stepping from school and into private practice. There was no buffer zone, no safe area. It was simply – ok, you are qualified now get going.

Well, I think that sure the concept of learning on the job and sink or swim are all very good, but it hardly makes for a smooth transition or start into what can be a lifelong endeavour. I suppose that my forbears had it even harder. On the other hand, the competition is far more intensive for us now than it was back then. We have to reach a greater level of ability as soon as possible in order to make a living.

And despite the greater acceptance in the West of Acupuncture, there are still very few places where newly qualified acupuncturist students can get a starter. There are few options for apprenticeships and certainly very few paid positions. Basically it is private practice.

However, other than travelling abroad (which is pretty hit and miss), there is one other more local option that is available. This is volunteering.

My Volunteering experience in a hospice

For 2 years, I volunteered in a Hospice in East London. I practiced acupuncture and reflexology massage. I also worked with other therapists and acupuncturists. After my two years, I was then taken on for a paid position for 3 years and in that time worked more closely with newly qualified acupuncturists who came to the hospice to get some practical experience. In this time, I saw their skill and confidence levels improve a lot particularly in treating complex conditions like cancer, advanced MS and MND, so I know full well the benefits of volunteering.

For the rest of this article, I will discuss the benefits of volunteering, particularly in a hospice care setting for acupuncturists and how it will hep you build your proficiency, skill level and confidence.

Acupuncturists: Getting experience in palliative care by Volunteering

There are not many paid jobs in hospices for complementary therapists. Hospices usually sit in the charity sector and have limited financial resources. However many supportive care sections do recognise the increasing value of complementary therapies. They will seek out volunteers. Volunteering for a hospice for acupuncturists is a good way of building experience, confidence and skill levels. It is also possible to learn from other therapists. On top of that, experience in treating complex diseases including cancer can be gained. These are experiences that are not so common treating private patients or even in the university student clinics.

A well structured training course, good teachers and apprenticeship (if you can find one) can set a practitioner well on his or her way to becoming a good acupuncturist. But the real lessons will always come from the patients themselves.

In China and to a limited extent in Japan, it is possible to work in hospitals or pain clinics where you will be exposed to hundreds of patients and supervision. In the West, the majority of us will have to make ‘our bones’ in private practice, which in many ways is the ultimate challenge – because, unlike working in state hospitals or as salaried employees in private clinics, our income is directly correlated with our success in obtaining results with our patients. Although there are a lot of factors like how well we market and promote ourselves and our business, ultimately, the key factor is simple. If we get good results, patients come back and we earn money. If we get no results, patients don’t come back and we starve.

 Learning Quickly

With this motivation, we must become experienced and effective as quickly as possible and in order to achieve this level, regular patient practice will take us there. Basically the more people we see – the better acupuncturists we become. Volunteering in a hospice setting enables you an opportunity to speed up your progress by giving you the chance to treat many people in a clinical hospital setting. However, it is not a complete substitute for private practice and practitioners must be wary of falling into the belief that it is. There will be important lessons, that volunteering cannot teach you.

Working for free

When considering volunteering, the issue that comes to mind is that you are offering a professional service for free. Other healthcare professionals are paid, why shouldn’t complementary therapists? This is a valid point and the answer lies in medical politics.

There has for a long time, been a kind of conflict between the different medical ideas and models, however in the current age in the West, the emphasis is on a model of medicine emphasising drugs and surgery. Nonetheless, there is a shift occurring with complementary therapy modalities becoming more accepted into mainstream medicine. For example, in the UK, doctors, nurses and physiotherapists are allowed to undergo short weekend courses to learn some basic acupuncture techniques. They are then allowed to practice at work. It is unlikely that there will ever be any great shift leading a huge incorporation of complementary therapies and acupuncture as part of primary care. It will likely always stay as an optional, secondary or supportive care provision.

Also budgeting is a factor. In the UK, the NHS is under going a funding crisis. Cuts are being made all through with even Accident and emergency departments being closed down. It is unlikely that funding will be available to pay for complementary therapists. I do understand that the situation in other countries (e.g. USA) may be better for acupuncturists to work in paid employment. In the UK, it is likely to remain primarily a private market occupation.

Non-monetary benefits

But when considering volunteering (i.e. working for free) – What is sometimes missed is that there is a trade-off going on. It is not monetary. On the contrary it is far more valuable. You are providing a professional service and in return, the hospice is providing you with hands on practice, supplies, support and quick experience.

There are other less obvious benefits. For example in the UK, you need a CRB or police check to work with ‘vulnerable’ adults or children – for example, people with serious illness or learning disabilities. The hospice should arrange for you to get one. The certificate will last you for 3 years. Your experience working with vulnerable adults will be looked upon favourably by other employees.

A well organised hospice should also give many opportunities to develop other skills – for example to give talks, set up your own courses, give lessons or arrange any other activities. There will come the time when you will outgrow the hospice and decide to leave. Most desirable is that your own personal practice is becoming busier and you have no more time to volunteer. But, the benefit is that it is always there and you can always come back later on.

Patient Contact and Experience

In acupuncture, there is no substitute for hands on training. In Japan, the success of an acupuncturist is not based on how much money he has or how famous he is – but on how many patients he treats a week. Multi-bed clinics are not uncommon and some clinics run on a casual waiting room process where you just turn up without appointment and wait in the waiting room with other people until your turn is up. In the UK, acupuncture is not as well established and is generally more expensive so this kind of setup is quite rare.

Acupuncturists in the West must undergo training, and participate in follow up courses, seminars, workshops and read many acupuncture texts, but ultimately it is the patients that will be the greatest teachers. Think of every patient as a teacher with their own unique lesson. The more patients you see, the more teachers you have. One of the problems for all new acupuncturists is building up a practice. It is a process that can take years. It requires determination, perseverance and self-forgiveness.

Some practitioners at the beginning may see only one patient a week. Gradually, that number will increase. The downside to this is that development is slower. This is one of the advantages of volunteering in a hospice for new practitioners. If the department is well developed, you may be able to see 4-8 patients a day, sometimes more – and many will have serious diseases. It can be a way of speeding up your skill development and can really help with hands on confidence.

Exposure to different people

As well as needing to get your hands on as many bodies as possible it is useful to get your hands on as many different types of people in order to develop your skills. The hospice will introduce you to a variety of people – men, women, young, middle aged, elderly, different ethnic groups, nationalities, religious backgrounds, different socio economic and professional backgrounds. You’ll notice that despite our outward differences, we all have one thing in common – we all can get sick.

You will notice that different people will often carry attitudes with them that reflect their life experiences. For example, a number of patients encountered in hospices will be of the elder generation, born during or after the war. Some will have lived through periods of rationing and scarcity and may belong to a less-expressive age of ‘no-complaining’ and ‘keep-it-to-yourself-attitude’. In the past, they may well have joked about the idea of having a massage or meditating. But in the hospice, they are curious and more open to it. Some of them will have never had any type of complementary therapy before let alone acupuncture, so it can be quite interesting to share the ‘deflowering’ process with them and provide their first acupuncture treatment – especially if they enjoy the treatment and it helps with their symptoms.

Technical skills: Pulse taking

Pulse diagnosis is one of the diagnostic method used in Traditional Oriental Medicine. The quality, rhythm, speed, strength and feel fo the radial artery wrist pulse has diagnostic significance. The higher level practitioner can get a complete understanding of the body condition by palpate the pulse. The pulse can furnish a lot of information about what is going on internally.

In the hospice environment, it is difficult to base a diagnosis only on the pulse. There will usually be a combination of an advanced disease process along with the changes causes by various treatments – chemotherapy and surgery as well as various other medications for secondary problems. With all these factors combines, the pulses will be affected.

I would rarely base a treatment based on the pulse. The reason is that pulses are not always clear. Regardless of the season, a patient may be thin and frail and yet the pulse will be rapid and bounding. Other times, a patient may appear healthy at first impression – they may have recovered from surgery and treatment and yet the pulse will be weak and thin.

Generally, the rapid pulse and the weak pulse tend to be encountered a lot. The interaction of advanced illness, surgeries and cocktails of pharmaceutical drugs will affect the pulse in ways that were not predicted in the Huang Di Neijing (Ancient Chinese classical Acupuncture text). Drugs have different energetic qualities and the interaction of disease processes and surgery leads to various imbalances of Ki/Qi and blood stagnation and the Yin Yang balance in the body. Nonetheless, the hospice does provide the opportunity to feel many types of pulse qualities – albeit from people with severe disease.

Learning about strength of treatment

Adapting treatment

Due to advanced disease states and medications, acupuncture treatments need to be adapted to the patient’s condition. Sometimes treatments should be light – with few needles used and sometimes can be slightly heavier with more needles used. For some patients, I use a Chinese TCM approach and for other patients I use a more Japanese Meridian Therapy approach. At times, I feel that TCM needs to be toned down – as it can be a little too aggressive, with less needles used and Meridian therapy needs to be jacked up a level – as the focus is symptomatic treatment and I never know just how many times I will see that particular patient.

If patients are extra sensitive or have had a lot of hypodermic injections, then it may be a good idea to use thinner gauge needles and guide tube insertion. The less is more approach can be a consideration because many hospice patients are in a weak depleted state and you may not want to risk over stimulating or leaking qi. I met one acupuncturist who simply needled yintang on one patient to good effect because she deemed her condition was too weak for any further needling.

Needling size, depth and insertion

Assessing patients condition

If the patients is in relatively good condition, the strength of treatment can be a little more. This means that more needles can be used. Treatments can be longer. Perhaps more needling manipulation (the De-qi) sensation can be used. On the other hand, if a patients condition is frailer, than treatment should be toned down. It is easy to ‘wipe out’ a patient. Use fewer needles. Shorter treatments.

Shallow needling

With some patients taking steroids, I prefer to keep needle insertion shallow and to not use too much needle manipulation. Steroids thin the skin and make it easier to bruise so deep massage techniques and strong needle stimulation should be limited.


But generally, I feel it is important to keep needling as painless as possible so I tend to favour the guide tube on the more sensitive patients. However, the hospice does provide an opportunity to practice and develop painless free handed needle technique but if a person is especially sensitive, than I will use the guide tube. The reason is that we want to create a positive association with acupuncture. We don’t want to give any more suffering.

Most patients new to acupuncture assume needling is going to be painful. After all they have probably had numerous injections with hypodermic syringes so when acupuncture needling is painless, they are often pleasantly surprised and it helps them relax. In the Toyohari system of acupuncture, painful needling technique is said to disperse the qi. As many patients will be deficient in some way, we want to preserve the qi as much as possible.

Patient Accessibility

Many patients are very immobile. Many have to lie down on their back and cannot move, which makes any form of back treatment difficult to perform. This is all the more worse when a patient has back pain – the area you want access to. Back pain can sometimes be exacerbated by lying on your back and not moving around as the energy stagnates. But with some patients it really is not possible to move around. Treating patients requires that you become inventive. Using distal points or extra channels becomes necessary.

Considering approaches to trearment

In the Meridian therapy system of acupuncture, there is the principle of treating the healthy side of the body. This principle can be useful for patients with inaccessible body parts. For example, in one instance I treated a patient with a painful arm. Unfortunately she had bandaging over her arm and I could not treat the affected limb directly for local treatment. However, by following the principle that the channels are a mirror of each other, I treated the corresponding acupoints on her other arm. Of course, I had to explain why I was treating her opposite side.

Open mind to treatment

As mentioned before, treating patients in a hospice requires a more flexible approach. Primarily I practice a form of meridian therapy with a great emphasis on meridian palpation as well as hara or abdominal diagnosis and evaluation of the back shu points.

Unfortunately, often I may not have access to these areas. Many patients are relatively immobile. They cannot turn onto their fronts. Some may have had abdominal surgery making that area out of bounds. Some patients can be extremely sensitive especially if cancer is widespread so that even gentle palpation on the torso can cause severe pain. Sometimes, I consider myself fortunate if I am able to palpate the five phase points. You must work around all these limitations and more importantly, be light-hearted and reassure the patient. It is a great chance to sit and talk or hear about their life if they are willing to talk. Because even listening and joking becomes part of the treatment and sometimes can be more important that the acupuncture.

Acupuncturist Trying out and testing acupuncture treatment approaches

There are sveral different systems of acupuncture. Along with the standard TCM, 5 Elements and Japanese models, there are various different systems that have been created that may have a good place in the hospice settings. For example, … Scalp acupuncture (points applied only to the scalp of the head) may have a good for the treatment of neurological conditions.

Aother example, is the system of ear acupuncture called ‘Battlefield Acupuncture’. As the name implies it is a system of ear acupuncture designed for relieving pain presumably on the battlefield where the medical centre may be many miles away. This can be ideal for patients suffering severe pain from operations or caused by tumours in the hospice – especially when conventional painkillers are not effective.

Some examples

It can be a great place to try out certain point protocols. For example, after re-reading Miriam Lee’s book – ‘Insights of a Senior Acupuncturist’, I went through a phase of trying out her standard points protocols –Liver 3, Lung 7, L.I.-4, L.I.-11, St-36 and Spleen-6, to test how effective it could be.

The Mox Africa charity also had a moxa protocol for patients with tuberculosis, which involves a pattern of moxa cones around the region of BL-25 which I tried out in order to boost the immune system. Although, I had to use smokeless stick-on cones as typically most hospices will have smoke alarms – and it is highly advisable that you do not risk setting off the alarm as otherwise the entire hospice has to be evacuated, which won’t make you any friends.

Other Clinical Observations

In the hospice you will encounter many kinds of clinical signs you would not often be able to see in private practice or at least not in such an extreme way. Muscle wastage can be common. If you palpate, certain muscle groups, some muscle areas may have a weak feel to them as though they are lacking qi and blood and can be an indicator of which channels are affected by the disease process. I have noticed the area around and inferior to SJ-14 to S.I.-10 can be an area prone to muscle wastage. There may be noticeable depressions or weak spots on key acupuncture points such as ST-36 or L.I.-4 and I have followed the Neijing recommendation that when depressions are found along the course of the yang channels – apply moxa.


Oedema is a common occurrence and along with internal or external pain. Another finding, I have observed is the hard as a drum distended abdomen in patients with cancers of the intestines. There is a reference to the drum-like abdomen in the Neijing in respects to blood-letting treatment. Generally, the healthy abdomen should be relatively soft and pliant with some elasticity, a balance of top and below the naval, no tight or hard areas and with an even temperature – not with cold or hot patches. As the hara corresponds to the ‘dantian field’ and is effectively the power centre of the body, the health of the body can be reflected in the abdomen.

Adapting Acupuncture treatments to the Hospice Setting

Interdisciplinary working

Firstly you will work alongside other therapist of other disciplines. This is absolutely essential, because, it gives you a chance to learn new techniques or other ideas from other practitioners. You are able to exchange treatments or attending social events. Being an acupuncturist in private practice can be very isolating and so being able to meet up with other practitioners can be beneficial.

Secondly you will be working alongside conventional medicine practitioners – nurses and doctors. As well as admin, cleaning, catering staff and other volunteers. You will find that having friendly relationships with all is essential. Cleaning staff will ensure the treatment rooms are cleaned and you have fresh towels and sheets. The receptionist and transport teams will be necessary for when patients are being brought in. Doctors and nurses will refer patients to your therapy. At times, you may even treat nurses or other professional staff. All of this is essential for better interdisciplinary relationships.

Complementing and Integrating with other modalities

Acupuncture is classed as a ‘complementary’ or ‘integrative therapy’. That means it complements conventional medicine – it works side by side. I don’t see any benefit to taking an antagonistic approach to conventional medicine as some practitioners do. I would prefer to see further integration and acceptance of complementary therapies especially acupuncture into mainstream medicine. This would be similar to the Chinese healthcare model. In this model, hospitals would offer conventional surgery and pharmaceutical drugs. However, they would also have herbal medicine departments or classical acupuncture and massage departments. Patients could be referred to either. Also, in this model practitioners are salaried workers.That would be true integrated medicine.

Advanced illness – death and realistic expectations

I have read and heard instances of acupuncturists who have been able to heal people completely of cancer. For example, there was an account of how the Japanese acupuncturist Kodo Fukushima healed himself of his own cancer. He applied daily self treatment and received regular treatments from a colleague. Later on he also had a patient come all the way from America to be treated by him for cancer.

I also met a lady in London, who told a compelling story of how a Vietnamese acupuncturist in England was able to clear her cancer. Such stories are not so common and have almost a mystical feel to them. The ability to heal advanced diseases like cancer is something for all of us to aspire to. Such acupuncturists clearly have powerful healing abilities. Perhaps, they also have a duty of care to humanity to pass on this healing knowledge to other acupuncturists.

Considering your health earlier in life

In Veith’s translation of the Neijing, there is this passage –

“The sages did not treat those who were already ill, they instructed those who were not yet ill. To administer medicine to diseases which have already developed is comparable to the behaviour of those persons who begin to dig a well after they have become thirsty and of those who begin to cast weapons after they have already engaged in battle. Would these actions not be too late?”

This somewhat unforgiving statement emphasises the importance of preventative treatment. It promotes the idea of following a healthy balanced lifestyle in tune with nature (or the Tao). Many diseases take some time to develop. Also obvious symptoms may not show up until some time into the disease progression.

Making acupuncture a part of life

This sums up very well – the problem of patients with advanced disease. By the time we see them, it may already be too late. The disease process is far more advanced and in many cases the best we can offer is symptomatic improvements. With objectives such as reducing pain, digestive discomfort, and improving anxiety and stress. Also dealing with the side effects of pharmaceutical drugs like chemotherapy or post operative recovery. Perhaps, the best time would to have started treating these people earlier. At least one to five years before the cancer appeared. Of course it is easier to say this with hindsight and no guarantees that acupuncture can prevent cancer.

However, acupuncture treatment and indeed many complementary therapies has several benefits. They can enhance life, reduce stress, improve bodily function and boost the immune system. It has the potential to be a good preventative measure. One of acupuncture’s strengths is that it has the potential to keep a person in balanced health if taken frequently.

Conclusion: We’re all in this together

As I mentioned before, practicing acupuncture in a hospice has changed my perspective on life. I realise that there is no difference between me, the patients, family members or carers or anyone else there. One day, I am treating a patient. Maybe sometime in the future, that patient will be me. One day, I am treating a family member who is suffering from stress as their partner is dying. Then I realise that it could be my mother or father or spouse that I could be treating. There is a certain awareness of the ‘fragility of life’. We can see that life, dying and death are all so close together. It can be depressing. However, it also makes me realise that we must try to fulfil our lives as much as we can.  To make the best of the time that we have.

And the final point

Why are complementary therapies effective? Healing is as much the body as the mind and the spirit. A patient can be treated with the best medicine, the best surgical procedures and best foods. Yet, the spirit and the mind can still be troubled. A person may have had enough. They don’t want to try any more.  Then healing is so much harder and suffering is worse. Acupuncture offers a chance to improve the physical state of the body by reducing pain, nausea, sickness and digestive function. Acupuncture also improves the mind and the spirit. It does this by reducing stress and anxiety for the patients, the carers and their family members. And this is why the usage of complementary therapies is growing in palliative care in the UK.

The Future – Acupuncture and hospice care

I hope in the future, that complementary therapists will become an integral part of all hospital and hospice care. I hope that the number of paid positions will increase in the NHS. For this to happen, it is important that complementary therapies continue to grow in popularity and become more-in-demand. It is vitally important to carry out more scientific trials and research to prove their efficacy.


In this article we have touched briefly on the path to acupuncture Mastery and discussed steps to becoming an acupuncture master. There are many components to the path, more than I have mentioned in this article. However, one of the most importance aspects is putting years of practice. Or in other words making your bones’. This is an important factor to gaining a level of proficiency and confidence as well as setting you on your path to mastery. I am certainly no master and still have lots to learn at my current level.

In this article, I have discussed volunteering as one method to apply to get on the path to mastery or at least greater proficiency. In my experience working in hospice care, I have met many acupuncturists who’s confidence in their ability was greatly enhanced by volunteering. Also their knowledge of working with people with very complex health conditions was increased. So at the very least, whilst you may not be a master, you will be on the path to becoming the best acupuncturist that you can become. Which in a way, is a sort of mastery of oneself. And ultimately, isn’t that more important for us all.



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